Promoting Urban Sustainability

Arctic PIRE, Promoting Urban Sustainability in the Arctic, is a five year project aiming to develop an Arctic Urban Sustainability Index, which will assess the consequences of anthropogenic activities and inform policy, i.e. how the actions of man influence the fragile Arctic environment and what to do about it.

The project is coordinated by the George Washington University and involves partner institutions from the USA, Canada, Finland, Norway and South Korea. In Finland, it is the University of Helsinki and the Aleksanteri Institute, more specifically, the research group lead by professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen,  that participate in the undertaking of PIRE activities.               

On 24th-25th of May, scholars of the PIRE network met for a conference and networking event in Helsinki. Arctic Sustainability Conference consisted of a workshop and meetings with Finnish environmental officials and NGO’s such as Ministry of the Environment, Greenpeace, and Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. In these meetings, the importance of sharing the findings and outcomes with all relevant actors of the society – domestic as well as international – was highlighted. Good practices in the Arctic between the Arctic states should be shared on all levels.

For the academic part, it was a full two days of presentations and inspired discussion. The research conducted under the auspices of PIRE is manysided. Education is an important focus. For example, Dr. Marya Rozanova-Smith (George Washington University) has conducted 500 interviews among among educational specialists, school children and government officials in the Naryan-Mar, Salekhard and Novyi Urengoy regions, finding a strong demand for a regional Arctic University in the area. Graduate research assistant Beth Short (George Washington University) is also working on the theme of education. Her project #60above60, aims at enhancing student understanding of sustainability, action and solving problems of global significance. This is something that might be adapted to the Finnish curriculum as well.

Postdoctoral researcher Stephanie Hitztaler (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki) brought into the conversation her findings on Gazprom’s new take on corporate responsibility, Rodnye Goroda (“Home Towns”), an initiative that strives to – on a psychological and social level - attach people to the cities they work in.     

The conference and meetings brought the members of the project significantly closer to achieving their goal of creating the Arctic Urban Sustainability Index based on economic, social, environmental, governance, and planning indicators that are thoroughly evaluated and systematically implicated. The conference will serve as a good foundation for future cooperation with the researchers, involved in the Arctic PIRE project and the societies they work in.